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What Does “Organic” Really Mean?

November 21, 2011

You see it everywhere. USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC.

But, have you ever wondered what the term really means?

According to the USDA NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM, the definition of ORGANIC is:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

In other words, organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, synthetic fertilizers or ionized radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.


Confused by packaging at the grocery store? Here are a few highlights:

  • 100% Organic can only be used on products that contain 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding water and salt).
  • Organic on a food package indicates that the product contains 95-100 percent organic ingredients (excluding water and salt).
  • Made From Organic Ingredients indicates the product contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients.
  • If a product contains less than 70% organic ingredients: Organic ingredients can be listed on the side panel, with no organic claims on the package front.
BOTTOM LINE: If you see the USDA Organic Seal then you know the product you are purchasing has 95% or more organic content.
Be sure to visit the USDA website for complete details on ORGANICS:
Interested in more Green living businesses and services in Massachusetts? Visit the GOGREEN WEB DIRECTORY!
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